This week I went for an interview at the Guilford County Schools central office to give feedback on what’s needed to recruit and retain teachers and staff. I touched on a lot of things but top among them were:
1) Principals need to be quality instructional leads that create a climate that inspires teachers to do this job that often feels impossibly hard. Teachers move mountains for principals that support them professionally and emotionally.
2) We need to create ways for teachers and staff to be honest about what a hard job this is and help them feel brave and empowered to be a real part of how we are going to improve. Specifically, be honest about the real challenges created by lack of state funding, the stresses of testing, and the race, gender, and economic disparities that exist outside of school buildings. Be honest about these things and then create avenues for teachers and staff to be a part of the solutions going forward.
3) Set new teachers up for success by creating functional Early Career Educator programs and placing them in scaffolded teaching environments partnered with experienced mentor teachers and principals that are quality instructional leads. Stop putting them in ridiculously hard teaching environments with no support and wondering why they leave.
4) Pay is often not the reason people leave, but it does play a role in being able to attract folks, especially when surrounding states offer way more to beginning teachers. Work with NCAE and local governments, align legislative agendas, and create space for the organizing and mobilizing needed to win the schools our students deserve.
5) School leadership teams need to be spaces where representatives can give honest feedback without fear of retaliation and where real decisions are made. Democracy is a skill, we need to train people and school leaders to be able to engage in meaningful decision making.
6) The district could grant due process rights to new teachers as a benefit of working for Guilford County. We saved due process for teachers that already had it but new teachers no longer receive it from the state. This is an important right the district could restore at no cost to themselves that would help distinguish us from other counties. To my knowledge, Wake, Durham, Alamance, and Buncombe have enacted similar local policies.
What would you add?
For more information on teacher pipeline issues in NC, check out this great resource over at Public Schools First NC!
Thanks for all that you do!